Rick: March 2006 Archives
Out here in Marine-land for the weekend and I saw a young man wearing a t-shirt with a Marines logo that read: "Pain is the body's way of ridding itself of weakness"
Blew my mind.
The second post every written on this blog was about Sam Harris' book The End of Faith. He recently published an article in the Buddhist culture magazine Shambhala Sun, positing that "Buddhism’s philosophy, insight, and practices would benefit more people if they were not presented as a religion".
What the world most needs at this moment is a means of convincing human beings to embrace the whole of the species as their moral community. For this we need to develop an utterly nonsectarian way of talking about the full spectrum of human experience and human aspiration. We need a discourse on ethics and spirituality that is every bit as unconstrained by dogma and cultural prejudice as the discourse of science is. What we need, in fact, is a contemplative science, a modern approach to exploring the furthest reaches of psychological well-being. It should go without saying that we will not develop such a science by attempting to spread “American Buddhism,” or “Western Buddhism,” or “Engaged Buddhism.”
If the methodology of Buddhism (ethical precepts and meditation) uncovers genuine truths about the mind and the phenomenal world—truths like emptiness, selflessness, and impermanence—these truths are not in the least “Buddhist.” No doubt, most serious practitioners of meditation realize this, but most Buddhists do not. Consequently, even if a person is aware of the timeless and noncontingent nature of the meditative insights described in the Buddhist literature, his identity as a Buddhist will tend to confuse the matter for others.
There is a reason that we don’t talk about “Christian physics” or “Muslim algebra,” though the Christians invented physics as we know it, and the Muslims invented algebra. Today, anyone who emphasizes the Christian roots of physics or the Muslim roots of algebra would stand convicted of not understanding these disciplines at all. In the same way, once we develop a scientific account of the contemplative path, it will utterly transcend its religious associations. Once such a conceptual revolution has taken place, speaking of “Buddhist” meditation will be synonymous with a failure to assimilate the changes that have occurred in our understanding of the human mind.
It is as yet undetermined what it means to be human, because every facet of our culture—and even our biology itself—remains open to innovation and insight. We do not know what we will be a thousand years from now—or indeed that we will be, given the lethal absurdity of many of our beliefs—but whatever changes await us, one thing seems unlikely to change: as long as experience endures, the difference between happiness and suffering will remain our paramount concern. We will therefore want to understand those processes—biochemical, behavioral, ethical, political, economic, and spiritual—that account for this difference. We do not yet have anything like a final understanding of such processes, but we know enough to rule out many false understandings. Indeed, we know enough at this moment to say that the God of Abraham is not only unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.
There is much more to be discovered about the nature of the human mind. In particular, there is much more for us to understand about how the mind can transform itself from a mere reservoir of greed, hatred, and delusion into an instrument of wisdom and compassion. Students of the Buddha are very well placed to further our understanding on this front, but the religion of Buddhism currently stands in our way.
Given my previous post today about the troubling lack of acceptance of atheism in American culture, Harris continues to bravely expound his ideas that religion has dangerously outlived any usefulness it may ever have had, and promotes the concept of living a rational, non-delusional life that still has many questions, and yes, mysteries, to be asked about and searched for.
According to new University of Minnesota study atheists are identified as America's most distrusted minority:
American’s increasing acceptance of religious diversity doesn’t extend to those who don’t believe in a god, according to a national survey by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s department of sociology.
From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.
Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. “Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years,” says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.
Edgell also argues that today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past—they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy—and in America, that ‘core’ has historically been religious,” says Edgell. Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.
My dentist, who I have been going to for twenty years is in Burbank. I call him the "Dentist To The Stars" because his offices are near many movie and television studios and there are frequently "persons of note" who use his services. Not too long ago I ran into Smokey Robinson in the hallway! "Hey" to Smoke, if you're out there in the blogosphere!
Being the office of the DTTS, the accommodations are deluxe and each dental chair has a flat screen television attached to it with full cable access. I could have watched anything but this morning at 7:30 AM, after I showed up for my appointment to repair a filling, and filling in the time that the DTTS was seeing other patients (i.e., late for mine!) I was presented with President Bush's news conference.
Here's an excerpt from today's press conference where the now not so secret but illegal NSA wiretaps are questioned:
Q …. On the subject of the terrorist surveillance program --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q -- not to change the tone from all this emphasis on bipartisanship, but there have been now three sponsors to a measure to censure you for the Implementation of that program. The primary sponsor, Russ Feingold, has suggested that impeachment is not out of the question. And on Sunday, the number two Democrat in the Senate refused to rule that out pending an investigation. What, sir, do you think the impact of the discussion of Impeachment and censure does to you and this office, and to the nation during a time of war, and in the context of the election?
THE PRESIDENT: I think during these difficult times -- and they are difficult when we're at war -- he American people expect there to be a honest and open debate without needless partisanship. And that's how I view it. I did notice that nobody from the Democrat Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ought to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, vote for me, I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program. That's what they ought to be doing. That's part of what is an open and honest debate.
OK, so one would reasonably expect a follow up question calling Bush on the fact the no Democrat has called for "getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program", but they are calling him on breaking the oversight law in conducting surveillance. But no ... no follow-up. And since I was sitting in the chair for so long, will no impending drilling, I got to flip over to a cable news channel. The issue of Bush being asked about Feingold's censure motion was mentioned, but they passed over the the fact that Bush didn't address the real issue and that the reporters at the press conference let him slide. Maddening!
There was an excellent story that came over the AP last Saturday that called Bush on his use of "straw-man" statements:
"Some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day," President Bush said recently.
Another time he said, "Some say that if you're Muslim you can't be free."
"There are some really decent people," the president said earlier this year, "who believe that the federal government ought to be the decider of health care ... for all people."
Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions.
When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.
The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.
He typically then says he "strongly disagrees" — conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.
By the way, my mouth is still numb.
And on the third anniversary of the invasion, the NY Times reports:
As the Iraqi insurgency intensified in early 2004, an elite Special Operations forces unit converted one of Saddam Hussein's former military bases near Baghdad into a top-secret detention center. There, American soldiers made one of the former Iraqi government's torture chambers into their own interrogation cell. They named it the Black Room.
In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball. Their intention was to extract information to help hunt down Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or were briefed on its operations.
The Black Room was part of a temporary detention site at Camp Nama, the secret headquarters of a shadowy military unit known as Task Force 6-26. Located at Baghdad International Airport, the camp was the first stop for many insurgents on their way to the Abu Ghraib prison a few miles away.
Placards posted by soldiers at the detention area advised, "NO BLOOD, NO FOUL." The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." According to Pentagon specialists who worked with the unit, prisoners at Camp Nama often disappeared into a detention black hole, barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges. "The reality is, there were no rules there," another Pentagon official said.
No rules but our own.
And today in the Washington Post, Donald Rumsfeld writes:
Though there are those who will never be convinced that the cause in Iraq is worth the costs, anyone looking realistically at the world today -- at the terrorist threat we face -- can come to only one conclusion: Now is the time for resolve, not retreat.
What we need to understand is that the vast majority of the Iraqi people want the coalition to succeed. They want better futures for themselves and their families. They do not want the extremists to win. And they are risking their lives every day to secure their country.
That is well worth remembering on this anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He should be ashamed.
You kind of know what's coming from the (photshopped) picture, but fasten your seat belts.
From the jaw dropping, amazing, disgusting ... adjectives escape me article by one Adele Fergusen titled Why do blacks continue to support Democrats?:
One of these days before I die, I hope to see a shift in the attitudes of so many of my black brothers and sisters in this great country we share, from perpetual victimhood, to pride in their achievements on the road from slave to American citizen.
Remember Ronald Reagan's story about the kid who had to shovel a huge pile of manure? He went about it with such joy he was asked why and said, "With all that manure, there's got to be a pony in there somewhere."
The pony hidden in slavery is the fact that it was the ticket to America for black people.
Really, read the whole thing, if you dare. And of course, read The General's manly response.
Tip o' the ET chapeau to Catherine.
Moving to Canada
The Beatles released Let It Be, the last of their thirteen albums, 36 years ago.
As reported by NPR today and transcribed by Raw Story former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor gives some straight talk about the trend towards attacking our judiciary:
I, said O'Connor, am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning. Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and former communist countries where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O'Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.
I brought up one of my favorite forced birth conundrums the other day, guaranteed to make wingnut "life begins at conception" heads explode. If a fire breaks out in a fertility clinic and you can only save a petri dish with five blastulae or a two-year old child, which do you save?
What would any sane person do? Well ... click through to the post and listen to the audio clip of a right wing talk show host "struggling" with the question.
BAGHDAD - The top U.S. envoy to Iraq said Monday that the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime had opened a "Pandora's box" of volatile ethnic and sectarian tensions ...
And we can see this coming from a mile away ...
... that could engulf the region in all-out war if America pulled out of the country too soon.